Before I dig in to the topic of this post I first want to say that the purpose of all my posts is simply describe the process of my jnana yoga, in case you had an interest. It is not meant to “impart wisdom”. Writing has always been an extension of my self-inquiry and if it is of value to others or invites discussion, then that’s a bonus.
I recently needed to receive some medical care and while the procedures themselves didn’t feel good, the feeling of being taken care of did. Ask my wife Katie and she will confirm that I can take as much love as she can give me. Blame it on my nature, my upbringing, my karma or epigenetics, but I am a love sponge.
During a yoga retreat in an ashram in upstate New York many years ago, I had a meditation that transformed me. I had the experience the knowing that my heart was like pure crystal, emanating, no, composed of love. Maybe that sounds corny but I’m not talking about romantic, social or Hollywood love. Love that is the force of nature, the pulse of existence, the fabric of time, the platform of awareness.
When I experienced my crystal heart there was no getting or giving love, it could never be something that there could be more or less of because it was the basis for everything. Once felt, it never goes because there is nowhere for it to go. It is intrinsic.
Ok so you may ask, “Well, make up your mind, is your heart a sponge or a crystal?”
It’s both. And before you accuse me of being deflective, let me explain.
I often say in yoga class that fun is under-rated, or that play is a worthy goal for a yoga practice. I say that because fun and play are great practice for experiencing bliss. When we laugh or smile it is an inner reminder that this is our natural state. By practicing this and getting used to feeling that way we open the door for a deeper happiness that is independent of external events, an equanimity and joy that arises simply from being alive. But we need to build the circuitry for this radical shift. We need to rewire our organism for this transformation to establish itself.
In the same way, the feeling of receiving care or love from others reminds me that I have a love generator called the heart that is actually the source of the experience. I can't feel it if it isn't already in me. I practice “receiving” and “giving” until all there is left is love. The yoga teacher Erich Schiffman once said. “Love is what’s left when you let go of everything you don’t need. “
"Letting go" sounds easy right? But it is hard to feel vulnerable, to acknowledge our own human needs and weaknesses. And there is no guarantee that by learning to receive we will become more giving, more generous, less selfish. It’s more socially praised to give love than to receive. Receiving can seem weak or out of control. But it has to start there and it does start there. A newborn baby only receives and needs to receive in order to survive. It turns out, too, that a well-loved baby not only has a better developed sense of self and inner autonomy but is also better able to love and be loved as an adult. Receiving the love of a caring adult after birth lays down essential wiring that is necessary to experience love later in life. It's called self-regulation.
My meditation teacher once said “giving and receiving must be in balance”. But this wasn't meant in a tit-for-tat way, or as a rule to adopt. It's more like stating a law of physics: every action has an equal and opposite reaction, or as expressed in the Judeo-Christian tradition: "As above, so below." The crystal heart is both the generator of love and the experiencer of love, it is the universally-felt "I".
My Dad said it well, in a rare moment of public speaking, standing there in the gathering darkness of the evening of my wedding, quoting Lennon/McCartney: “And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”
Check out this Ted talk by Swami Dayanda Saraswati
And Sir Paul, wait for it, at the End.... ;-):